3. My role as a strategic pedagogical leader

In the links below I present the courses and programs I have designed, and also the new generation of excellent teachers that I have raised up, but first I reflect here on what pedagogical leadership means to me. For me, pedagogical leadership is a continuous exercise in pushing and pulling myself, my students, and my colleagues to challenge the boundaries of the learning process.

My goal in authoring resources for learners is not just to add to the options for textbooks and websites, but also to redirect the profession to focus more on putting students in touch with authentic language and relevant problems in linguistics. My intention is to inspire others also to push students beyond the boundaries of the classroom — where the examples are artificially simple, out into the messy facts of real life. This agenda is supported by my research, which likewise aims to sort out the complex interactions of factors that influence the behaviors of words and grammatical categories. In short, reality is not as neat and clean as many of our textbooks presume it to be, and students need to be prepared to deal with real-world complexity.

My teaching has changed quite a bit since coming to UiT because our Russian language faculty work together so closely. We team-teach nearly all of our courses. This means that we are continuously collaborating on the course contents and how they are presented. Because our courses are a collective product, none of us claims “private ownership”. Instead, we complement and overlap with each other and also observe and support each other in providing courses that give the best from our whole group. In a very real sense, we are constantly leading each other, and constantly monitoring each other to do our best in every class. This approach also makes it easier for us to work together on the design of the Russian BA and MA programs in their entirety. Our overlapping teaching in the various courses means that we all understand well what each course contains and how it fits in to the programs as a whole, and how courses can be adjusted or created to best contribute to the whole. Of course, team-teaching is a lot of work, since we have to communicate a lot with each other (“Did you get through all of the exercises on adjectival endings in class today?” “Can I ask you to return to the students the dictations that they wrote yesterday now that I have corrected them?” “Here is a draft of the final exam. Could you please comment on whether you think these questions are appropriate and suggest changes if necessary?”). But we think that the result is worth the effort. And the students have more access to instructors too, since they can visit two or three instructors in their offices if they have more questions, instead of depending on just one instructor.

A few years ago, our Russian language faculty saw the opportunity to redesign the undergraduate program so that students could begin their study of Russian right in the first semester rather than having to wait until the spring. Shortly thereafter, our Spanish colleagues contacted us to ask how we implemented that change since they wanted their students to have the same kind of option in their program. Now both Russian and Spanish have programs that begin with a “grunnkurs” in the fall.

3.1 New courses I have launched

I have been creating new courses and revising old ones throughout the course of my career. More…

3.2 New programs of study I have launched

I have played a leadership role in the development of courses of study for both students and teachers in both the US and Norway. More…

3.3 The Next Generation: My advisees as pedagogical leaders

Perhaps the best measure of the effectiveness of a teacher is the generation of students that go on to become great teachers themselves. More…